MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)

Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start

02/25/2010 07:07 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.

The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.

The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.

“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”

Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.

“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.

Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.

Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.

“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”

McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.

“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”

Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.

“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”

Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.

“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.

Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.

Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.

“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”


03/31/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On March 26, Sequoyah High School’s athletic department received a $15,000 check from Oklahoma Celebrity Charities Inc., a nonprofit that raises money for high school athletics. Former Tulsa offensive tackle and Seattle Seahawks’ 1977 first-round draft pick Steve August and fellow former NFL players Derrel Gofourth and Steve Zabel presented a check during a school-wide assembly. The former NFL players signed autographs and posed for pictures with the more than 350 students. Former Denver Bronco and Atlanta Falcon Bob Breitenstein and San Francisco 49er Jean Barrett also signed autographs for students. “All of us realize it’s important to give back to our communities, and if we can have fun doing it by playing a golf tournament to raise money and give it back, then that’s a pretty good deal,” Zabel said. The $15,000 donation was raised during the organization’s Kickoff Charity Golf Classic in 2014. Gofourth was an offensive tackle at Oklahoma State University and All-American in 1976. He played for the Green Bay Packers from 1977 to 1982 before moving on to the San Diego Chargers. Sequoyah High School competes in 12 varsity sports, including football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, track, and fast and slow pitch softball. The school has won 17 state championships and has had 13 student athletes capture individual state titles in the school’s history. School officials are still determining how best to use the funds. “I’m speechless. It’s not every day that someone or some organization comes out and offers to assist a school’s budget in that way,” said Superintendent Leroy Qualls. “It’s incredible what these guys are doing. With school budget cuts in Oklahoma, including Bureau of Indian Education funded schools, this money is a tremendous boost in our arm for our athletic program and the school budget, which supports the athletics program.”
03/29/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With funding being provided by the Bureau of Indian Education, the Cherokee Nation and city of Tahlequah will construct a waterline that will go around the Sequoyah High School campus. David Moore, Cherokee Nation construction management planning and development director, said all the main pipes and waterlines to the buildings throughout the school’s campus will be replaced, which will help improve the water quality and stop leaks. “The reason we are going around the campus is so we cannot disrupt water supply to the campus,” Moore said. “That way we can go in and build the waterline and then come back and connect each building.” The school has a city waterline but the new line will help with water usage because each building will have its own water meter installed. There is currently one water meter at the Sequoyah campus. “Right now we have one master meter for all of it,” Moore said. “We’ll be able to monitor the usage better.” The water tower, located close to where the school’s first football field was, will also be refurbished to hold more reserve water, which will be used for emergencies such as fires. Building the new waterline will help increase emergency reserve water flow and pressure. Moore said the architectural and engineering estimated cost of the project is approximately $750,000. The city will construct it and the tribe will pay for materials. “We pay for all the materials, and the city will do all the work,” Moore said. “They’ll purchase the materials that they require for their system and we’ll pay for them. We’re working really good with the city.” Once the waterline is complete the city will maintain it. “Right now if any waterline up there busts then we have to fix it,” Moore said. Moore said the project is expected to start within the next two months and be completed in about six to eight months. “With this new line I think we should be able to isolate problems better if they ever come up,” he said.
Senior Reporter
03/28/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – People now have an innovative way of learning to speak the Cherokee language thanks to Mango languages, which offers its language lessons for free through public libraries. Cherokee is the first Native language offered by Mango languages, and Cherokee Language Program translator specialists Anna Sixkiller and John Ross helped create two chapters of the 10 language lessons offered by the company. CN Language Program Manager Roy Boney said most libraries in the area have access to Mango languages. The company offers one of the “most robust” Cherokee language applications he’s ever seen, he said. “There are a few other Cherokee language apps, but most of them are basic word lists with colors or animals. This one is getting into how you interact, talk and speak back and forth, and the grammar notes explains why the language is the way it is,” Boney said. “It was something new to all of us. They have a linguist assigned to the Cherokee Nation to work with us, and the linguist helped parse out some of the information like the roots (of the language) to help put it together so that it made sense to a learner.” People will see the written Cherokee language and English phonetics and hear a host explain how the Cherokee language works. “And then Anna and I will be speaking – introductions, goodbye, and small conversations – in the Cherokee language. That goes on all the way through to lesson 10,” Ross said. Boney said the partnership with Mango languages came about because Teresa Runnels (Sac and Fox), American Indian Resource Center coordinator for the Tulsa City-County Library, received a grant to develop a Native language project. TCCL CEO Gary Shaffer and Director of Strategic Investments for Cherokee Nation Businesses Jay Calhoun worked with Mango languages to have Cherokee included among the 66 languages Mango languages offers. “They didn’t know which language to do first, and they went with Cherokee because it’s the most visible with all the technology (used to share the language),” Boney said. Sixkiller said she and Ross worked on greetings and phrases such as, “what is your name,” “where are you going” and “where are you from.” Phrases one would use when interacting with Cherokee speakers. “We had to create our own text. We created our own text, then we had to record, and then we also had to review the recording,” Ross said. He said he and Sixkiller began working on the Mango application in August by watching videos on how the Mango process works. In September, they began gathering phrases and greetings and responses to greetings and finished that portion in October. Recording of their work began in November, and the finished project was released in January. Each lesson has a different subject matter such as Lesson 2, which includes expressions of gratitude and how to greet people. Each of the 10 lessons has approximately 50 slides, and the lessons build on the previous lessons because people might use a phrase or greeting in Lesson 5 that they learned in Lesson 2. “You can see the phonetic and tone pronunciation. You can actually record your own voice and compare how you’re pronouncing it to how they’re saying it,” Boney said. “You can have the pronunciation slowed down if you need to hear it better. So it’s got quite a lot of features in it.” Mango languages also included culture and grammar notes to help people understand the language’s roots. Ross said he also appreciates the fact a man and a woman converse in the lessons to teach the language. He said he’s seen numerous Cherokee language programs over the years and this one “rates pretty high.” “We need to target everybody, but I think we need to inspire our young ones in learning our language, and I think this is a good start here,” he said. “They know what we can do with our language now, and we need to get them inspired to learn our language.” Ross said the Mango lessons can be the beginning of someone becoming a fluent Cherokee speaker, but more importantly people can hear the tone of spoken Cherokee. “I think that’s the key to learning the language, to be able to hear it all of the time, and it makes it easier to pronounce words,” Ross said. Boney said a desktop computer version of the program exists, as well as an app version for iPhone and Android smart phones. He said it would take most people a few hours to go through all 10 lessons. The language program is free to people if their library has access to it. “So, if you have a library card and you’re in Stilwell, and if the Stilwell library has it, you can go in there and log in through the library’s website and use your library credentials to log into Mango for free,” Boney said. “It’s the same with your app, too. You just put in that stuff to get access to it.” He said people who don’t have a local library or a library that doesn’t have access to Mango can pay to use the lessons on the Mango website or app. “One of the reasons why we liked this project when we got approached with it was the fact that it does give people an incentive to go to the library, and that’s an underused resource in a lot of communities,” Boney said. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. To find a library with Mango, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and enter your zip code.
03/25/2015 11:00 AM
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The American Indian Education Foundation has set April 4 as its student scholarship deadline. The AIEF seeks students of all ages who are focused on their educational goals and who demonstrate the ability to make positive change in their communities and in modern society. It expands opportunities for students to attend and remain in tribal or non-tribal colleges by providing educational leadership and networking services. Along with scholarships, AIEF also offers services such as the Tools of the Trade, Emergency Funds and School Supplies. Through Tools of the Trade, the AIEF offers small grants to vocational/technical schools so they can provide professional supplies to Native American students. The Emergency Funds service provides small grants to selected colleges, which can then assist students with expenses that might otherwise threaten their ability to stay in school. With its Schools Supplies service, the AIEF each fall distributes basic school supplies for young Native Americans in preschools, elementary schools and secondary schools serving reservations in the Northern Plains and Southwest. The program also helps vocational and technical schools provide professional supplies for Native American students who choose to learn a trade. The AIEF follows up on the School Supplies service by providing scholarships to Indian peoples pursuing higher education. The AIEF is one of America’s largest grantors of scholarships to Native Americans, supporting more than 225 students each year. For more information or to fill out a scholarship application, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Special Correspondent
03/24/2015 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Two schools in the Cherokee Nation brought home some new hardware in March. Within hours of each other, the girls basketball teams at Sequoyah High School and Locust Grove High School respectively won the Class 3A and 4A state titles on March 14 at Oklahoma City’s State Fair Arena. After losing their regular season finale at Fort Gibson, the Sequoyah Lady Indians rattled off seven straight postseason wins, including six by double digits, to earn the team’s first state title since 2007, when current Tulsa Shock guard Angel Goodrich led the Lady Indians to the third of their three consecutive titles. Pouring in 33 points in the title game on 11-of-18 shooting, Sequoyah sophomore guard Cenia Hayes helped power the Lady Indians past the Chisholm Lady Longhorns in the title game. As a team, Sequoyah went 7-for-15 from beyond the 3-point line in the championship game and outrebounded the Lady Longhorns by a 36-25 margin. Hayes was named the Class 3A tournament’s Most Valuable Player and her teammate, senior Jhonett Cookson, was named to the all-tournament first team, as was CN citizen and Adair High School senior Kylie Looney. Sequoyah senior Sierra Polk was named to the all-tournament second team. In Class 4A, the Locust Grove Lady Pirates had a tougher road en route to the school’s first girls basketball state title. After dropping the area final to Vinita, the Lady Pirates qualified for the state tournament by winning the consolation final against Berryhill and were bracketed with No. 4 Harrah and the back-to-back state champion Fort Gibson Lady Tigers. The Lady Pirates needed overtime to beat Harrah and squeaked past Fort Gibson by six in the semifinals. In the final, Locust Grove held Oral Roberts University signee Ashley Beatty to 10 points on 3-of-19 shooting en route to a 51-33 win over the top-ranked Anadarko Lady Warriors. Two CN citizens, seniors Kennedy Sokoloski and Madison Davis, earned Class 4A first team all-tournament honors. The Sequoyah boys basketball team also qualified for the 3A state tournament, but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual state runner-up Verdigris. Other schools at least partially within the Nation’s jurisdiction to send teams to the state tournament consist of the 6A runners-up Muskogee Lady Roughers, the 5A runners-up Tulsa East Central Lady Cardinals, the 4A state champion Tulsa Central Braves, the 4A state runners-up Tulsa McLain Titans, Stilwell Indians, Chouteau-Mazie Wildcats, Sperry Pirates, Fort Gibson Tigers and Lady Tigers, Pryor Tigers, Owasso Rams, Okay Mustangs, Adair Lady Warriors, Vian Lady Wolverines, Hilldale Lady Hornets, Collinsville Lady Cardinals, Vinita Lady Hornets and Grove Lady Ridgerunners. Averaging 25.5 points per game, Stilwell senior Chase Littlejohn was named to the 4A boys all-tournament first team. With Stilwell eliminated in a double-overtime semifinal game by eventual state champion Tulsa Central, Littlejohn was the only player on the first team who did not participate in the state title game.
03/24/2015 08:00 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Native American Student Association plans on planting on campus various heirloom seeds obtained from the Cherokee Nation’s Seed Bank. This is first time heirloom seeds will be planted on the campus. NASA President Elise Clote, a junior at the university, said she and other NASA members in February traveled to the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, to get the seeds. “We received several different kinds of seeds from the Cherokee Nation,” she said. “(Administration Liaison) Pat Gwin met with us and just showed some different seed options and what they have.” She said they received corn, squash, bean, gourd and other seeds to plant. Clote said NASA is teaming up with GroGreen, a campus organization with a garden on campus, to plant and manage the seeds. “At one point, the Native American Student Association was trying to get our own garden started on campus and then we decided that it’s probably be better to partner with another organization. That way we could grow our members and also educate their members and then learn more from their RSO (Registered Student Organization) as well,” she said. The seeds are to be planted in a courtyard garden near the campus’s Maple Hill dormitories. Clote said it is important to have the seeds growing on the campus to help educate people about the plants. “I think it’s important to bring some of the agricultural history back to the area considering how many tribes once lived here,” she said. “We also have a Trail of Tears marker on campus where some of the Cherokee camped out on what is now the University of Arkansas.” Clote said NASA members are looking forward to the future of the garden and working with other students. “We do have a lot of Native students that are involved and are really looking forward to not only planting these seeds on campus but also working with other RSOs on campus and educating their groups,” she said. She said she’s eager about the path NASA is taking when it comes to the garden. “I’m really excited that NASA’s growing and that we’re working on projects like this, that promote Native foods sustainability and promote using our own seeds to cultivate and grow our own food,” she said. Clote said all food harvested from the garden would be be donated to local food pantries or academically studied. “Everything will be eaten, or if some of the fruit goes bad or has some kind of disease problem, people will use those academically to study those plants,” she said. NASA plans to have a public ceremony on May 2 at the garden. “We’re going to have a opening ceremony and it’s just so that we can bring some indigenous plants back to campus, which is kind of the whole purpose of why we wanted to do get them from Cherokee Nation and have them planted this year,” she said. Clote said she hopes to see the garden continues with the possibility of obtaining seeds from other tribes. “I don’t know what next year will hold, I feel like we may branch out and talk to some different tribes about getting some of their seeds,” she said. CN cultural biologist Feather Smith-Trevino said the NASA students planting the heirloom seeds helps with the preservation of the seeds and gives the students an educational experience. “It helps us with the preservation, really continuing on these heirloom lines,” she said. “It’s going to help a lot with the education for all the students that are over there, getting them interested. Hopefully, it will be something that they can continue on so that we’ll be able to work together in this program. “It’s nice to see that this younger generation is involved in this and they’re passionate about it,” she added. “It kind of helps them to learn how to take care of their own food, grow their own food. Not only is it educational in the Native American side of it, it just really helps everybody all the way around.”